Lucas Hoge grew up in Hubbell, Nebraska, where hunting and fishing are a way of life. He spent his childhood hunting deer and pheasants, and got his first bow when he was 18. But it wasn’t until his Colorado elk hunt about five years ago that he really fell in love with bowhunting.
Hoge is one of iHeart Radio’s Top 25 Rising Stars, and for good reason. Maybe you’ve heard his new single, “Boom Boom.” Or maybe you recognize him as the host of “Last Chance Highway,” Animal Planet’s animal-rescue series.
Whether it’s his single or the show’s title song, you’ll find yourself tapping along to the crisp vocals and upbeat stylings. But country music isn’t his only forte. He’s adept with a bow and arrow, too.
We first talked to Hoge after the ACM and Cabela’s Great Outdoor Archery Event in April. Hoge shot for Team Justin, led by country artist Justin Moore. Hoge updated fans with team standings on social media, posting several pictures of the archery action.
— Lucas Hoge (@lucashoge) April 3, 2016
In a recent interview, Hoge said he was “smoking” the practice rounds, giving professional bowhunter Cameron Hanes a run for his money. Hanes must’ve agreed. He posted on Instagram, saying Hoge was “a heck of a shot.” So good, in fact, that he took his first elk last year. We had to know: How does a small-town guy from Hubbell, Nebraska, balance life as a bowhunter and rising country star?
We caught up with Hoge in June, just after his military tour through Africa, London, Belgium and Germany. Hoge eagerly discussed his love of bowhunting.
“I grew up in a small town of 44 people around the Kansas-Nebraska line called Hubbell, Nebraska,” Hoge said. “There wasn’t a whole lot to do there besides hunting, fishing and farming.”
Hoge started hunting at age 7 with his dad. “If you can call it hunting,” he joked. Although he wasn’t old enough to take the hunter safety course – 10 is Nebraska’s minimum age – the instructor, who happened to be his principal, let him sit in on the classes. That classroom experience, coupled with hunts with his dad, grew into a passion for the outdoors.
Hoge got his first bow when he was 18, but he really fell in love with bowhunting about five years ago while hunting elk in southern Colorado.
“You have to be so skilled about what you’re doing,” he said, speaking to the importance of silence and patience. Hoge said the key to getting into shooting range is paying attention to what’s going on around you, and monitoring the wind and other elements. “I just love being out there and in tune with everything around me,” he said.
We swapped stories of close encounters with wildlife, and I shared my first up-close experience with a deer, and how the first sight of a doe rendered me motionless. The doe was so close, and I knew one move would blow my cover.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Hoge said, relating to my encounter. “If you’re fortunate enough for them not to see you, and they’re just hanging out with you – that’s the coolest thing. You can see them reacting how they’re meant to react. They’re not scared and skittish. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Hoge’s closest bowhunting encounter so far was possibly on his Colorado elk hunt last September. “Where I hunt is very thick terrain, and very woodsy,” he said. That thick terrain limits shooting lanes, which means you must get close to execute a clean shot.
Hoge was hunting 5 miles into the mountains, and awoke the first day to perfect conditions. So perfect, in fact, that he got within 7 yards of an elk. “It’s dark just before we get into the trees, and the sun’s coming up, and you hear bugling everywhere,” he said. “The wind’s coming down and we’re walking up. We track this one (elk) about four hours. Everything was perfect.”
Hoge called to the elk and the elk called back, getting closer with each call. The mild September air was still moving downward, and combined with the calling to deliver a lifetime opportunity that Hoge called ideal, exciting and perfect.
“It was the most perfect; one shot, one kill. He was down within 10 yards,” he said.
Next came the hard part: quartering and packing the elk down the mountain. The average adult male elk, called a bull, renders about 250 pounds of boneless meat. Imagine carrying all that on a four-hour hike back to the truck. It’s no secret that hunting elk requires physical fitness. Just look at the muscles on professional bowhunter Cameron Hanes. He’s dedicated to his workout plan, and it shows.
Hoge also follows a disciplined workout schedule. “I do tons of cardio, and I also try to do four minutes of planks a day,” he said. More specifically, not a couple minutes in the morning and a couple more in the afternoon. He does four minutes all at once for ultimate body toning, with an emphasis on core strength, which helps improve posture for a better shooting stance.
Hoge has difficulty finding time to practice archery, given his schedule, but enjoys shooting 3-D targets in his backyard.
What advice does he give those who want to try archery or bowhunting for the first time?
“Be patient,” Hoge said. “You’re not going to be perfect the first time you shoot, so practice, practice, practice.”
Hoge also said it’s important to have fun, and to not injure animals while hunting. “You want to be good at what you’re doing, and you want to be effective at pulling back, holding, being patient and letting (the bowstring) go at the right time.”
It’s patience, after all, that led Hoge to his first successful elk hunt. When asked about his bowhunting goals, Hoge said he’s planning another elk hunt for September, followed by a deer hunt in December. He also wants to bowhunt a gator.
Between now and his elk hunt, Hoge is focused on his upcoming album release. His single, “Boom Boom,” dropped July 11, and the full project drops later this year.
“This is the best project I’ve ever done, and I’m excited to be working with my producer and good friend Matt McClure, who’s a Grammy-nominated producer,” Hoge said. “This is one of those projects I’ve been dying to finally finish, and we’re nearing the corner of it, and really ready to get it out there to everybody. I hope they enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.”
The new project – set to release as two six packs – features “Boom Boom” and the song “Dirty South,” which Hoge wrote with Troy Johnson and Jack Williams, a former staff writer for The Who. “This is one of those songs I think everybody’s going to relate to,” Hoge said.
When he’s not writing and performing, Hoge is a brand ambassador for Cabela’s and a spokesman for Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pet, an organization that fosters deployed soldiers’ pets until they return home. He has five pets of his own: two cats and three dogs.